Meet the Director and Cast of Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: Part 3: Amanda Forstrom (Hermia) by Joel Markowitz

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This is the Part 3 in a series of interviews with the director and cast members of Annapolis Shakespeare Company‘s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Meet Amanda Forstrom (Hermia).

Amanda Forstrom. Photo courtesy of Annapolis Shakespeare Company.
Amanda Forstrom. Photo courtesy of Annapolis Shakespeare Company.

Joel: How did you become involved with this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream? What did you perform at your audition?

Amanda: I recently moved to the DC/MD/VA area, so I missed the initial season auditions for ASC. Thank goodness they had a specific audition for Midsummer that I saw and attended in October; I love the show and auditioned for Sally and Kristin. I performed (funny enough) a Helena monologue!

Why did you want to play this role, and what is the most fun about playing her?

Honestly, I wanted to be a part of the production in any capacity, but getting cast as Hermia is such an amazing opportunity!  I love her fierceness and loyalty and the belief in her and Lysander’s love, despite what other people around her may say or think (or can go awry!). She has a very deep faith in love and this is something I really admire about the character, especially with how people treat love and relationships today. She knows what she wants, and she goes after it–sometimes people are too scared to take that leap of faith.

What are some of the suggestions that Kristin has given you on playing your role that has made your performance better?

Kristin has been great at helping me to think of more abstract possibilities in the world of our Midsummer. Joel and I were having some trouble reconciling the lighter mood of the play with the very stern, black and white law of Athens in the opening scene (the three choices for Hermia’s future being marriage to Demetrius, becoming a nun, or being put to death). I think that the more we thought about the culture of the 90s and how the magical world of fairies influences the humans, we had more room to play with the different tones in the scene. Kristin came up with some references that we really identified with to help put us on the right track.

How does the design of the show affect your performance?

The design of the show is so spectacular and colorful! It has been a really fun challenge to keep even the most intimate of moments on that large and open scale, to fill the stage and world of the play that we have created. The 90s are also such a fun time period to play with! Certain props and “explosions” have been difficult and very intricate to rehearse, but they were a welcome challenge and the audience will have a blast with us!

When did you get the ‘Theater Bug’? Where did you get your theatre training?

In comparison to most artists, I didn’t get the “Theater Bug” until I was a bit older, during my freshman year of college. I went into undergrad thinking about a career in business, and theater was something I did for fun. It wasn’t until I performed the role of Paulina in Death of a Maiden that I realized how powerful and necessary these stories are to tell; it’s a very beautiful and sacred thing. Theatre has made a huge impact on who I am as a person and my relationship with the world around me. I decided that if I was going to pursue acting professionally, I would need more specific training to find my strengths and weaknesses. During my senior year, I auditioned at the URTA’s (University/Resident Theatre Association) in NYC. After meeting with a few schools, I had an interview with Professors Steven Pearson and Robyn Hunt (of University of Washington and USD/Old Globe) and felt a connection instantly. I followed them to the University of South Carolina, and graduated last spring with my MFA in Acting. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Amanda Forstrom  (Chiron), Rana Kay (Lavinia), Teresa Spencer (Demetrius), and Aaryn Kopp (Bassianus) in Taffety Punk Theatre Company's 'Riot Grrrls: Titus Andronicus.' Photo by Brittany Diliberto.
Amanda Forstrom (Chiron), Rana Kay (Lavinia), Teresa Spencer (Demetrius), and Aaryn Kopp (Bassianus) in Taffety Punk Theatre Company’s ‘Riot Grrrls: Titus Andronicus.’ Photo by Brittany Diliberto.

Have you appeared in other Shakespearean productions and who were your favorite roles?

Some other Shakespearean roles I have played include a witch in Macbeth, Nell in A Comedy of Errors, Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and most recently Chiron in Titus Andronicus with the amazing Taffety Punk Theatre Co. Chiron has definitely been one of my favorites thus far, just because it is such a rare and amazing opportunity for an actress to tackle such a specific villain (and a man!), and it was so much fun to play a part I wouldn’t normally be cast in. Helena was also one of my favorites, especially now that I’m on the “other side” of the lover’s spat!  Truly though, I have loved every Shakespearean character I’ve been lucky enough to play because there is always more to discover; more to love, more to hate, more to challenge.

What do you admire most about your fellow cast members’ performances?

The cast as a whole has been so inventive, funny and supportive of each other’s choices throughout this whole process! The fairies manifest themselves in some really thoughtful and unique ways, (Peaseblossom and First Fairy!) and I have to remind myself to “sleep” when I’m supposed to be under the sleeping spell instead of watching the fairies! Frank (as Bottom) brings such wild abandonment in his work, which is so fun and inspiring to watch. Nick DePinto, Valeka Holt, Lauren Turchin Fox, and Stephen Horst (along with the other fairies) have really made this magical world come alive, yet make their changes to their human counterparts seamless. They also are beautiful movers and fearless physical actors!

I also have a great time playing onstage with the other lovers! The majority of our rehearsal time was spent together, so we became really close; we trust each other and were able to bring some really outrageous and fun choices into rehearsal – and we welcomed them all! The wonderful Joel DeCandio (Lysander) and I have worked together previously and this helped to immediately put us on the same page with Hermia and Lysander’s relationship. Ashlyn Thompson is such an endearing and beautiful Helena, and Ben Lauer is constantly bringing new and funny things to the table to play with – they are all very inspiring!

Which character in the play is most like you?

I think that at this point in my life, I identify most with Titania and Oberon. Lauren Turchin Fox and Stephen Horst have such a dynamic stage presence – they so accurately capture the highs and lows of a relationship; sometimes you take, other times you give. In the beginning of the play, we see that they are feuding so much, the seasons begin to change and everything is out of balance. In relationships, there are very delicate balances that must exist, or everyone and everything around you can suffer (or prosper). Finding and maintaining that balance in love is so important, as well as acknowledging the “summers” and “winters” in a relationship, and moving toward the future.

How can 2013 audiences relate to A Midsummer Night’s Dream? 

In short, the play is all about love and again, balance. In this play, there are so many different types of love; familial love, true love, lustful love, friendship love, subservient and dominant love. Everyone can identify with someone’s point of view in this play, or know someone who can. The joy and fun of this play is that everyone turns out okay, as long as they are true to themselves – and as Kristin has told the cast, we all have to enter the woods in order to come out on the other side, and ultimately, we are better people for it.

What impresses you about the DC Metro area’s theatre community?

I’ll definitely have to echo Nick DePinto on this one: the community is fantastic! All of the artists I’ve met have been extremely supportive of one another, and extremely welcoming to me since I’ve made the move from NYC to DC only 4 ½ months ago. I feel as if the general public here is much more interested in fostering artwork and artists, rather than critiquing and analyzing them. Even if something may not be your “cup of tea” the hard work and passion is still recognized. I also think that the DC/MD/VA area is doing a great job of cultivating the arts and arts appreciation in youth – I wish I had the opportunity to attend performances of Shakespeare’s plays when I was in high school – they are meant to be heard and seen, not just read. The arts as a medium, and theatre especially, specifically engages a person in positive discovery and expression of the self, which is so vital to youth and kids who are so impressionable.

What roles that you haven’t played yet are on your top 5 list?

There are SO MANY roles I would love to play! As far as Shakespeare goes, the top of my list would be Joan la Pucelle, Cressida, Katherina, and Ophelia. Some others are Maggie from Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Nora from A Doll’s House, pretty much any female character in Chekhov, Pegeen Mike from Playboy of the Western World, Laura from A Glass Menagerie… and the list goes on! But getting cast in a show is always an honor – and sometimes it’s the unexpected casting that hands you the best challenges and rewards as an actor. I think it’s important to have goals, but also to have an insatiable curiosity to whatever comes your way. I was cast as Nell in A Comedy of Errors and I had so much fun – my costume was made of hula hoops!

Nick DePinto and Company in Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.
Nick DePinto and Company in Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.

What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing you perform as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

There are so many wonderful things that audience members can take with them after seeing our Midsummer! With Hermia, I hope that audiences see her as courageous and that it really is worth it to take chances when it comes to love. As Kristin has told us, you are ultimately better for having the experience of going through the woods. Also, (in Hermia and Lysander’s case) just because it is young love, doesn’t mean it is immature love or it won’t last. I think that people really know, in their heart of hearts, what they want and they need to trust it – this can be hard with over half of marriages ending in divorce, or our culture telling us what love “should” be.
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A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays from December 6-22, 2013 at Annapolis Shakespeare Company performing at the Bowie Playhouse – 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 415-3513, or purchase them online.

LINKS

Interviews with the director and cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Joel Markowitz on DCMetroTheaterArts:

Meet the Director and Cast of Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: Part 1: Director Kristin Clippard.

Meet the Director and Cast of Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: Part 2: Nick DePinto (Puck).

Meet the Director and Cast of Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: Part 3: Meet Amanda Forstrom (Hermia).

Meet the Director and Cast of Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: Part 4: Joel DeCandio (Lysander).